Dye Free but Not Dead: Embracing My Hair One Product at a Time
Over the past few months I’ve been trying to embrace my natural hair texture. I’m somewhere between a 2C and a 3A according to Naturally Curly’s hair type quiz. I’m having trouble identifying my own texture because growing up I never wore my hair curly so I’m not sure what exactly it looks like un-touched and long.
When I was little my mom favored the 90’s bowl cut for girls on me out of ease. When I started to style my own hair I always brushed out my curls. My hair is very fine so it doesn’t take much to turn my curls into a weird puffy wave pattern that I regularly rocked with one of those jersey wrapped headbands to keep it all in place. When I got older I latched onto the early 00’s flat iron mantra and sizzled the crap out of my hair with zero use of leave in conditioners or oils.
Up until very recently I’ve also dyed my hair regularly with shades ranging from platinum silvery blonde to jet black within a matter of months. I’ve used 40 level bleaches, tried everything from demi to semi to permanent, and even did the natural henna thing for a while. I’ve kept my hair short for the past seven years or so to make sure I lobbed off all the chemically damaged bits.
Hair fatigue has officially set in for me. My “hair ideas” Pinterest board is shifting from bold dye jobs and complicated cuts to conditioning tips and wash and go styles. Maybe I’m just getting old but I can’t ignore my split ends and rapidly greying roots’ call to back away from Ricky’s and let my locks breathe. When I look into the mirror now and see my fading balayage from January I wonder what this really means. Am I letting myself go? I needed to find something to fill the hole that constant hair color changing filled so vibrantly. I needed something to obsess over and read up on, something to spoon onto my hair and feel a sense of accomplishment on a rainy Sunday while watching Netflix.
I decided to study up on my hair type. Having a girlfriend, Skye, with spirals to be reckoned with has afforded me with access to a myriad of curl-oriented products and knowledge. Skye begs me not to use sulfate shampoos and is constantly mixing up conditioning masques. She claims if she had my loose curls she would be unstoppable. For me, my twirling curls frustrate me to no end. I always have a weird patch that doesn’t curl in the back (maybe it’s heat or dye damage, maybe it’s just life cutting me down a peg) and my hair frizzes easily but also can’t handle most leave-in conditioners and serums because of their weight. Lately I’ve been favoring top-knots and slicked back ponytails when I can’t fathom wrestling my hair into a presentable pouf…which is most of the time.
I’ve tossed out my “color sealing” silicone conditioner and my purple toning shampoos and replaced them with apple cider vinegar rinses, thick hair masques, and light leave-in sprays. My new regimen includes L’Occitane’s Aromachologie Repairing Conditioner after a shampoo and apple cider vinegar rinse to remove build up. I adore this conditioner because it smells absolutely divine with a pleasant lingering aroma of ylang ylang and gardenia. It’s also super moisturizing and has a lot of great oils in it to keep my curls from frizzing and helps alleviate some of the breakage I experience.
After a good saturation with my conditioner I rinse and squeeze out excess moisture with my microfiber towel. Then, I add a quarter sized dab of Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner, squeeze out some more and then wide-tooth comb out my tangles. This is a product my girlfriend swears by for her ringlets and I think the extra layer of moisture is always helpful for any curl type.
I add a dab of Lustrasilk’s Max Curl Activator and ‘scrunch’ throughout, concentrating on my ends. This product is great for taming frizz but can get greasy quickly if your hair is fine like mine.
With a little more ‘scrunching’ I add my newest favorite product, Ion Leave-In Anti-Frizz Solution Conditioner (you can only get this at Sally Beauty Supply.) This is a super light leave in spray that isn’t crunchy like gel or greasy like most spray on oils. I really need a smaller bottle of this for my bag when my hair starts to get puffy again in the humid NYC summer.
With this satisfyingly complicated regime my Sundays have purpose again. Maybe I’m no longer the girl people stop and ask for hair dye secrets, or be the one to gush over that I could ‘pull that color off’, or the one little girls point to and wish they could have my pink tresses. Now I’m the girl with the, 2C on the cusp of 3A, curls and I’m learning that’s pretty bad ass too.